Real Moms: Linda Gardner

HebrewDawn: Real Moms Series - Linda Gardner
from left to right: Mary Jean, Linda, Tess, and Ava

Today I have the great privilege of introducing you to the next mom in our Real Moms Series. She is the mother to THREE beautiful girls, and is truly a beautiful person on the inside and out. I do not have want to take up much of your time with an introduction, so that you can savor all that she has to share. Please meet Linda Gardner, and I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I’m honored to know her.

How many children do you have and how old are they? Tess – my beautiful, kind, already married, 25 year old … and did I say kind? Mary Jean – my beautiful, goofy, not happy about being the middle child, 20 year old … and did I say goofy? And Ava – my beautiful, blonde, last chance for a boy, 19 year old … and did I say blonde?


HebrewDawn: Real Moms Series - Linda Gardner
clockwise from the top: Linda, Ava, Mary Jean, and Tess

What’s something you wish you knew before you became a mom that would’ve made your motherhood easier or better? How important it is to form relationships with other moms so that you have a support system of girlfriends. Join a play group of moms of similar aged children. If there isn’t one in your neighborhood – start one! It’s one of the best things that I ended up doing as it provided support for me and playmates for my girls. Girlfriends made me a better mother. Playmates made them better friends.

What is your greatest joy in being a mom? Beyond a doubt … Watching my children develop into the people that they aspire to be.

What has been your greatest struggle as a mom? If they hurt … knowing when to step in so that they know that I have their back and knowing when to step away so that they develop skills on how to fix things for themselves. Learning how to be their biggest advocate while not trying to fix everything for them. You can’t. It’s hard. I want to chew out every friend that has said an unkind word to them and every organization that didn’t accept them, but all of that just makes them stronger people and prepares them for what life brings. Still hard though.


HebrewDawn: Real Moms Series - Linda Gardner
from left to right: Mary Jean, Ava, and Tess

How has your relationship with your significant other changed since having kids? Better, better and better. Obviously working as a team strengthens any relationship. Making the decision before having kids as to parenting style is huge. So basically agreeing to be the same type of parent before you are thrown into the situation. It’s not something you can “wing” because there are 2 of you involved. For us this came natural. We discussed how we would handle things and as it turned out – we were on the same page for most things already. So we were ahead of the game. But if there are things you disagree on then you have to decide ahead which way you are going to parent together.

Having a child changes you. What do you hold onto and let go of as mother? Hold on to who you are on the inside … your heart, your soul, your spirit and let go of the fact that it’s about you. It’s always about someone else now – in the best of ways.

How do you make time for date night? Or how do you keep it saucy when life gets messy? I love date night so it’s easy. You just do it! I have never felt “torn” between wanting to spend time with my husband and wanting to spend time with my children. I have always craved both and done both. And felt good about it. Children have to experience you leaving and coming back. Even if a date means a weekend away. I was always fine with sending my kids away for weekends with the grandparents. It’s a win win for everyone and now they have those wonderful memories. Believe me – they will be fine without you. And if someone else doesn’t do things the exact way that you do … it’s OK.

What’s the one thing you would tell yourself looking back on your journey thus far? Just when you think you’ve been through the best part … lookout … the best is yet to come. The infant stage, the toddler stage, the teenage years, and now young adult. So many laughs, so many tears, so much of everything and yet so much to look forward to!

Anything else you’d like to share? One of my main goals as a parent was always to have my children and family unit be able to exist without me. Obviously I cannot control when I leave this earth, and if it ended up happening earlier rather than later, then I wanted my girls to be well adjusted and confident enough (even as children or teenagers) so that after the initial grieving, they would be able to think of me and enjoy the time we had together and not feel bitter and that they had somehow been cheated. So as important as I am in their life – I always want them to know and remember that their relationship with God is the single most important relationship in their life. That is everlasting.
Respect your children and in return you have every right to demand respect from them. If you are upset with your children – feel free to tell them and explain why. But be open to hearing the same from them. If they are upset with you and decisions that you’ve made – be accepting of their thoughts. It’s a 2 way street. And if they respect you and your rules, then disciplining is so much easier. Feeling guilty over breaking the rules is a much more effective form a discipline than being sent to their room.

Make sure your children are raised to be well rounded. Miss a rehearsal or even school to go on a vacation. Miss a game or a tournament to attend church. Make sure they are exposed to a variety of activities … sports, music, community service, church … it’s all important so they can develop into healthy well rounded people. And remember – our children are not put on this earth to fill the areas that we failed in – they need to find their own thing.

Don’t expect your children to do anything you won’t do also. They learn by example not by preaching. Don’t expect them to do community service if you aren’t willing to do it also. If they want to be a girl scout – you should be willing to be a leader (if they want you to). Don’t expect them to be involved in church if you aren’t also. And as far as being involved … be a room parent. Not every year, but at least one year in elementary school for each child. If you absolutely can’t work it out, then at least volunteer in the lunch room occasionally or to read to their class. You will never regret it!

Worship together as a family. It’s an hour a week and it’s the one time of the week that everyone puts everything else aside and makes God, family, and a sense of community and purpose a priority.


HebrewDawn: Real Moms - Linda Gardner
from left to right: Linda, Tess, Mary Jean, and Ava

Did you enjoy getting know Linda? I hope you’ve been inspired by Linda and her journey through motherhood. She has shared so much wisdom and guidance for us as mothers and mothers-to-be. There are days that I’m terrified at my daughter becoming a teenager and growing up, but hearing from Linda, I feel like it’s nothing to fear.

If you’d like to read about some other moms in our series, go read about Loren and Heather, here and here.

Do you know a great mom that should be featured in our series? If so, please send me a message.

Real Moms: Heather Wiederholt

I am so excited to introduce another mom to you in this new motherhood series here on HebrewDawn. Please allow me to introduce, Heather Widerholt. She and I became fast friends over tacos, margaritas, laughter, and a fun trip to MommyCon this past summer. Heather is the beautiful voice behind Sleepy Brother, and owner of Turtle and Hare Photography. This woman is full of so much talent, joy, AND she’s a wonderful mom. I hope you enjoy getting to know Heather and hearing about her life as a mom with her beautiful little girl.

 Real Moms: Heather of Sleepy Brother and Turtle & Hare Photography

How many children do you have and how old are they? I have one daughter who is four months old.

What is your greatest joy in being a mom? It’s hard to pinpoint a single joy for me at this point. Maybe it’s just because my daughter is so young, but right now all of the emotions are so vibrant, that it’s all joy. I’m joyfully amazed at her existence. I’m joyful that I get to love and teach her. I pray that I do a good job at that. I’m joyful to have the privilege to watch her grow and learn.

What has been your greatest struggle as a mom? I think that balancing myself has been, and will continue to be, a struggle. When I say balance I don’t just mean time. Being a mom makes all of the stakes in life feel higher. Decisions are harder because there is another person to consider. Time management is obviously harder. Prioritizing myself, or others, over my child is also part of this delicate balance. Every action is a series of choices in which I must prioritize people and activities. I’m still getting the hang of this.

What’s something you wish you knew before you became a mom? I wish I knew that I would experience emotion to a wider degree. It’s not necessarily a negative, but I just feel things much deeper. I doubt there would have been a way to prepare myself for that though.

How has your relationship with your significant other changed since having kids? It’s been so comforting to have someone to go through this transition with who is experiencing, questioning, and learning from all of the same things. We are learning how to be parents side by side, and it’s brought us closer together. I’m sure it won’t all be sunshine and flowers, but the thought of this very special shared life event is very exciting right now.

My hope for motherhood… I’ve only been a mom for about five minutes, but they’ve been a very full five minutes. I hope I can be a wise mother who humbly shows her daughter the grace, mercy, and love of God.

Thank You Heather for being a part of the real moms series! 
I hope you have enjoyed hearing from this beautiful and kindhearted woman who is full of so much love and grace. I hope that no matter where you are on this motherhood journey, that you have so much to offer the world around you and other women you encounter.

If you are interested in checking out Heather’s music with Sleepy Brother, I highly recommend giving their latest album Let in the Light a listen and a buy. Lastly, if you’re in the Richmond, Virginia area and need a photographer or videographer for the special moments in your life run and check out Turtle & Hare Photography as you will not be disappointed.

Would you like to be featured in the Real Moms Series or have someone you’d like to see? We are always looking for moms with kids of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds to share their story. Make sure to send me a message to be featured or nominate someone!

Real Moms: Loren Mitchell

I am so excited to begin the new motherhood series here on HebrewDawn, and interview our first mom. Please allow me to introduce, one of my dearest friends, Loren Mitchell. She is a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a writer, and a dear friend. She’s and I met while in seminary together, and though miles may separate us, our friendship has remained strong. It has been a joy to be on this motherhood journey together, as our kids are 7 months apart. I hope you enjoy getting to know Loren and hearing about her life as a mom with her sweet boy K.

Real Moms Series: Loren Mitchell

How many children do you have and how old are they? I have one child, a son, who will be 2 years old in May.

What is your greatest joy in being a mom? Seeing how much fun K has when he is doing the most basic things! He loves moving and sorting things from one box to another. He gets really excited now to go outside and play. While he is more of a picky eater now than he once was, he really enjoys eating applesauce and cookies. He is very adamant in asking for both. He also has this little monkey backpack and lunchbox that he loves to wear to school. My favorite part of the day is bedtime. Not the part where we keep trying to delay putting on pajamas or fighting brushing our teeth. But the part where we snuggle in the rocking chair and read stories before bed.

What has been your greatest struggle as a mom? Having my child be sick so frequently in the past year. For the first ten months of his life he went to work with me (I was serving as a solo pastor in a small congregation). When we moved to a bigger city and I began to serve a larger church a year ago, K who was becoming mobile, had to start daycare. He has had every virus under the sun, twice! To make matters worse, he has febrile seizures. This means that when his fever spikes from a virus or ear infection for example, he has seizures. These do not cause damage and don’t last very long but they are so scary! So, as parents we have struggled a lot on whether or not to keep him in school or take him out. It is always hard to see your baby sick, but the fear of seizures has made us extra protective when he isn’t feeling well. We’ve chosen to keep him in the Montessori school where he attends because he loves it so much and he is learning so many great skills. And finally, after a year, I believe his immune system is finally getting stronger!

What’s something you wish you knew before you became a mom? I was so terrified to bring him home when he was born. How would I ever sleep? I knew it would be so tiring. I knew that we would become pros at feeding, changing, etc., but I don’t think I was ever absolutely certain that I was ready to be a mother. I guess I wish I had been more confident in the fact that I didn’t have to breastfeed my child. I had wanted to do that and was prepared for it. But, I was sick when he was born. Not only did we have latching issues, my milk never came in. After about 6 weeks of stressing over that every hour of every day I quit trying. And you know what? It is okay! My son is healthy. My son was thriving and I was not. I had to not only accept that fact but trust that we bonded just fine as mother and son without breastfeeding. It is great for some moms, but it didn’t work for me and that doesn’t make me any less of a mother.

Having a child changes you, so what do you hold onto and let go of as mother? Being in control of everything (P.S. this is ridiculously hard). I like to plan things out but I find that with a child things change in an instant so it is harder for me to commit to doing things professionally or socially. I actually had to give up serving on our Presbytery Youth Council because I just couldn’t do everything. This was very sad for me to say that I couldn’t participate in that ministry anymore. I’ve gotten very lax about keeping the house straight or even keeping my desk/bill pile organized. I hate this and It drives me crazy. If I have to choose between sitting on the floor with the kiddo or straightening up, I have learned to try to sit still in the moment (my husband will tell you he has to constantly remind me that it is ok to be this way)! I am also trying really hard to hold on to my friendships. Time is such a precious gift these days but I am often too tired to pick up the phone or plan a day with friends. I value those relationships and that support so much, as I have wonderful friends. I hope they know they are appreciated, even if we don’t spend a lot of time together like we did before we all got married and  had children.

How has your relationship with your significant other changed since having kids? My relationship with my husband is certainly different. In some ways we are stronger than ever, we are a team when it comes to parenting our son and I feel that we are intentional in quality time spent as a family. But there are days when we really struggle. There are days when all of my energy is spent being pastor and mother and I am just deflated at the end of the day with little energy to be a wife. Not that these roles should ever be divided up in this way as I am supposed to wear all these hats at once, but I think that my husband often gets the short end of the stick. Other life stresses can also contribute to that but I think that we strive to spend quality time together, but it is tough. This flows over into the next question

How do you make time for date night? Or how do you keep it saucy when life gets messy? Short answer: I am not very good at it! I let the stresses of life kill my mood more often than I should. We have tried, and will continue to strive to take date nights or spend time together on days I do not have to work. We are lucky we have family close by so we do try to take advantage and let K spend time with them!

What’s the one thing you would tell yourself looking back on your journey thus far? They grow so fast. And Saturdays can be so hard! Just try to relax and enjoy the moments you have with your son and your spouse. Children change every day and I want to be able to remember what he was like at each stage of his childhood. Two things I have done to record those memories are to make Shutterfly Photo books every few months and write him a monthly blog on his birthday date with memories, milestones, and photos so that we can always look back. He’ll either appreciate that when he is older or want to kill me.

Thank You Loren for agreeing to be a part of the real moms series!
I hope you have enjoyed hearing from this beautiful woman, and hearing that there are many similar struggles that we are all facing. If you enjoyed her writing style as much as I do, feel free to read more on her blog Preaching Thumbelina.

Would you like to be featured in the Real Moms Series or have someone you’d like to see? We are looking for moms with kids of all ages AND mothers of children all grown up to share their story. Make sure to send me a message to be featured or nominate someone!


Happy Monday! I shared on Friday that there are some things in the works for HebrewDawn, and I couldn’t wait to tell you! Some may have noticed that there has been a routine developing as to the type of material and topics posted (Mondays – motherhood, Wednesdays – faith, and Fridays – fun). There will still be a routine to what is posted and when, but there will be a little bit of a shift. Are you ready to hear what it is?
Drum roll please….



Mondays will remain motherhood and motivation focused, but that is not all. There is a new series coming your way and YOU are invited to be a part of it!

New series coming to HebrewDawn: Real Moms. Read stories by moms with kids of all ages.

Throughout this series we’ll hear stories from other moms, answering some of our questions, sharing their stories, and helping us know that we’re not alone on this motherhood journey. We will hear from moms with children of all ages, AND veteran moms who have survived living with kids and then had them leave the nest. So how do you get to be a part of this? If you have questions for these moms  or if you would be interested in being featured, leave a comment or send me a message.

Wednesdays will be taking on a new focus from what they’ve been. Now the focus will be on wellness, and it will be from a 360 perspective. We will take a look at wellness through the lens of fitness, diet, heart, and mind. To enrich our conversations on this topic, be on the lookout for a new voice coming to HebrewDawn as a regular contributor!

Fridays will continue be a mix of faith and fun. This should be a positive way to finish out our week, refresh our souls, and get us ready for the coming week.

Thank you for being a faithful reader,  and I hope you’ll be a part of the excitement however you may contribute to the conversation (questions, comments, or sharing a story too). As always I’ll hope you’ll spread the word to others of all that’s going on and all that’s coming so we can each be encourage and inspired as we journey together.

Happy Monday!